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  • Writer's pictureFaye Bradley

Tea WG's Co-Founder Maranda Barnes On Her Favourite Brews & Building a Tea Empire in Asia – Interview

INTERVIEW


Tea WG has long served as a beacon of luxury in the world of tea across Asia, celebrated for its opulent collections and sophisticated packaging that have elevated it to a symbol of prestige in the region. Leading this esteemed brand is Maranda Barnes, the chief commercial officer of V3 Gourmet and co-founder of Tea WG. With a career spanning more than two decades in the luxury lifestyle sector, Barnes has played a pivotal role in establishing Tea WG as Asia’s foremost international luxury tea brand since its inception in 2007. Her influence extends beyond tea, having been instrumental in the revival of the storied 110-year-old Bacha Coffee brand from Marrakech in 2019. We sat down with the tea connoisseur to find out her background and favourite brews.



Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch Tea WG?


I was born in Chicago and educated in France before I started working in the luxury industry. I have been very fortunate to draw real-life experiences from living and working on three continents as it has given me a deep appreciation and understanding of international tastes and predilections. 


With other Tea WG co-founders, we recognised there was an opportunity to revolutionise the industry and emerge as a category leader as Asia’s first international luxury tea brand, offering the largest selection of the most exceptional tea harvests in the world. I was involved in almost every aspect of setting up the business, from the creation of the tea names, the creative and corporate identity of the brand, product conception, sourcing, design and development, digital innovation, and corporate communications.


As the Chief Commercial Officer of V3 Gourmet, I continue to creatively engage in developing unique and evolving strategies for Tea WG’s business development through L&D, digital strategy, corporate communications, PR and marketing departments, and lend my unique writing style across Tea WG touchpoints.




What does tea mean to you?


Tea is a moment, a reflection, and a chance for quiet contemplation, allowing one time to pause, reflect, and reconnect. Yet tea is also time with others; it is a time for celebration, a time to share life’s indelible moments


What are some of your fondest memories of tea?


My love affair with tea was something that came naturally to me when I moved to France at the tender age of 17, where I first discovered exceptional, full-leaf, single-estate teas. 


Tea has become an innate passion of mine simply because it is so much more than a simple beverage; enjoying a cup of tea is an experience in and of itself, a moment of contemplation and quiet pleasure everyone can relate to. Throughout my cultural exploration of tea, I have also had the honour of experiencing the rich tea cultures of different countries and these experiences deepened my appreciation for the diversity and tradition of tea. It has always been a joy to appreciate tea with the family as a tradition. Tea is a lifestyle and often fosters a sense of connection and ritual. 



What are 3 common misconceptions about tea?


There are various misconceptions of tea, including one that claims that all teas have the same level of theine. The theine level in tea is determined by the oxidation period of the tea leaves during processing. For instance, black teas are fully oxidised and the theine levels are also the highest; while blue and green teas are semi-oxidised and have lower theine levels compared to black teas. White teas have little to no theine; and red tea, also known as Rooibos, is theine-free.


Another misconception is that tea must or can only be a traditional beverage. I have always believed that tea is for everyone and every occasion and have led the transformation of tea into a beverage that is chic and fashionable. We pay homage to its glorious past with exceptional tea services and, of course, a collection of exceptional single-origin teas. But I have always wanted to strike a balance and find that tea is truly the link between the past, present, and future. This is one of the main reasons why we created the Haute Couture Tea Collection. By innovating our packaging, by innovating and creating new blends, and by working with planters to create new processing methods, Tea WG creates exquisite tea blends with different complexities in flavours that appeal to the modern tea drinker and introduce tea to the next generation of tea lovers. 


Finally, the third biggest misconception is that tea should always be infused with boiling water. On the contrary, to preserve the unique characteristics of each variety of tea, we advise using only filtered water and ensuring that the water does not boil – an important step to bring out the flavour and fragrance of the tea. The temperature at which the tea leaves should be infused also varies according to the type of tea. For optimum flavour, the highest grade of white teas, yellow teas, and green teas should be infused in water heated to 80°C. For other varieties of blue teas, black teas, matured teas, and red teas, water should be between 90°C to 95°C.



What makes Tea WG stand out from the other brands?


Tea WG’s philosophy of excellence is to offer the finest teas of the world directly from the source. As such, we have developed strong and exclusive relationships with tea growers worldwide, working closely with renowned tea planters to create exceptional Tea WG harvests. 


With cultivated exclusive relationships, Tea WG ensures unparalleled and exclusive access to harvests from tea plantations and renowned gardens. We offer the largest tea list in the world with over 1,000 types of whole-leaf, single estate, and exclusive tea blends from 47 tea-producing regions. 


Tea WG’s signature aesthetic offers a distinctive experience to our customers. A symbol of taste and refinement, our modern tea accessories are created in myriad colours, materials and precious metals, and we regularly update and innovate the traditional designs.



What are 3 teas that everyone should try from Tea WG and why?



Tea WG’s first and most beloved exclusive blend, Silver Moon Tea, was specially conceived and carefully blended by our team of experts to pair with any variety of snow skin or traditional baked mooncakes. A light and fragrant mélange of green teas – the perfect variety of tea to complement desserts and sophisticated patisseries – is blended with a very aromatic and heady bouquet of ripe wild berries which finishes with a hint of sweet vanilla. 



Our Chocolate Earl Grey Tea, a world’s first, is an aromatic black tea accented with fresh notes of rare bergamot blended with morsels of pure dark chocolate. This blend seamlessly marries the two flavours to deliver a marvellous and blissful blend. The twist on classic Earl Grey has also become one of Tea WG’s most popular blends and is a perfect breakfast tea. 



Also a world's first, our tea masters have blended Yin Zhen, the world’s finest white tea, also called “silver needles,” with rare and wonderful fruits and flowers to delight the senses of tea drinkers everywhere. White Spring Tea is a blend of fresh silver tips of Yin Zhen white tea with fragrant blossoms. 


Every tea that we launch in our Haute Couture tea collection is an instant success – Silver Moon Tea, 1837 Black Tea, Singapore Breakfast Tea, Geisha Blossom Tea, just to name a few – as they offer exceptional quality whole-leaf teas, expertly blended and packaged as would be an exquisite perfume, in modern and elegant tins, taking tea from the realm of a beverage to a complete sensory experience.



As a first-time visitor to Tea WG, what can one expect?


A first-time visitor can discover teas that are unique and suited to them with a treasure trove of over 1,000 varieties of single estate, fine harvests, and exclusive blends, as well as an exquisite collection of tea accessories available at Tea WG. 


Not forgetting Tea WG's renowned tea gastronomy, with an all-day dining menu and tea-infused patisseries – crafted by hand daily in our central kitchen and high-tech patisserie facility in Singapore to ensure the very finest quality for our customers.



What's next for Tea WG?


At Tea WG we’re constantly innovating to bring new and exquisite tea experiences to customers. We debuted our first Takeaway Tea concept in Singapore in 2022, which has since launched around the world in 9 iconic destinations globally, bringing everyday luxury to modern tea drinkers worldwide. Customers can enjoy a perfect cup of hot or iced tea on the go, anytime and anywhere. We have designed a takeaway cup which mirrors — quite literally — our signature gilded teapots. It is nestled into limited-edition designer carriers fitted with accompaniments to complete the tea-tasting experience. 


The latest addition to our collection of products is the Tea Teddies in Singapore. A world's first, Tea Teddies are exquisite tea-infused fruit gums crafted with rare white tea that can be enjoyed on their own or transformed into a delightful beverage. These whimsical Tea Teddies have taken the world by storm, selling out during the launch in Singapore in a record three days! They will gradually be launched at our Tea Boutiques across Asia, and later in Europe and the Middle East. 


While we cherish our time-honoured methods, we actively embrace new technologies to enhance quality control, streamline production, and personalise the customer experience. This commitment extends to our retail strategy. We're driving an omnichannel approach, where our luxurious brick-and-mortar stores are seamlessly connected to a robust e-commerce platform. This allows us to cater to the evolving needs of a broader market and anticipate future trends in the luxury tea industry.



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